Saturday, 12 September 2009

Governments should invest more money on children in the first six years of their lives to reduce social inequality and help all children, especially the most vulnerable, have happier lives...

According to the OECD’s first-ever report on child well-being in its 30 member countries, Doing Better for Children, shows that average public spending by OECD countries up to age six accounts for only a quarter of all child spending. But a better balance of spending between the “Dora the Explorer” years of early childhood and the teenage “Facebook” years would help improve the health, education and well-being of all children in the long term, according to the report.“The crisis is putting pressure on public budgets across the world. But any short-term savings on spending on children’s education and health would have major long-term costs for society,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “Governments should instead seize this opportunity to get better value from their investment in children and spend early, when the foundations for a child’s future are laid."

We all know that this is key especially for disadvantaged children and can help them break out of a family cycle of poverty and social exclusion.

National Year of Music

This week Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families launched the first ever National Year of Music...

In launching the National Year of Music, Ed Balls called on schools and local authorities to make a concerted effort to get more young people into music, so that by 2011 over 2 million primary school pupils will have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument. This initiative is backed by the Government’s £330 million investment in music, both inside and outside the classroom. The Year of Music runs from September 2009 to September 2010, with events taking place across the country over the coming year.

I hope that every school in Leeds will do something to celebrate and develop their music over the next year.

Carbon Emissions from Schools: Where they arise and how to reduce them

The Sustainable Development Commission was commissioned by the Department forChildren, Schools and Families to understand the carbon emissions associated with the English school estate and to assess the carbon footprint of the schools...

The 2006 study estimated that the UK schools estate is responsible for 10.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from direct and indirect sources each year. This represents less than 2% of UK carbon emissions, but almost 15% of carbon emissions attributable to the public sector. The current study (2008) estimates that the schools estate emits 8.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. The emissions are projected to reduce by less than 20 per cent over the period to 2050, which is insufficient to play a leading role in reducing schools’ impact on potential climate change. As you all know the UK Government is currently committed to a national carbon emissions reduction of 80 percent by 2050 and the Sustainable Development Commission believes that school should be exceeding this target.

We are committed to every school in Leeds being a fully 'Sustainable School' by 2020 and the more we understand these issues the better. To read more about the analysis, for scenarios of how these emissions could be achieved and the recommendations to the DCSF, click on the following link

Lower Your Waste Costs and Increase Recycling in 2009

My colleague Phillip Robson our Head of Commissioning, Procurement and Business Development sent me some information about schools and recycling...

"In line with reducing council waste to landfill and lessening the impact of rising waste
costs, the Council has widened the scope of its trade waste contract with local company
Associated Waste Management (AWM). The contract is open to all schools in Leeds and
has recently introduced additional recycling for plastic bottles and cans. This contract is
competitively priced and will save you money. Schools joining this scheme will be supporting our local economy as well as adding to the Council’s data stream and therefore increasing the understanding of the waste we are all producing across the region. The contract is supported by the Council’s Environment Policy Team and waste resources office. Skip services are incorporated into this holistic contract as required, and any school recycling paper and card can now be set up, so by utilising this service you will help to reduce large waste vehicle usage within your areas, further reducing pollution and improving road safety."

Phillip tells me that this contract has been designed with you in mind. Please consider changing to AWM and changing your waste management for the better but check your contract termination arrangements with your existing provider.

Friday, 11 September 2009

I moved on to the brilliant new Swallow Hill Community College building...

Bernard Knowles, headteacher, and his colleagues have worked incredibly hard to get the fantastic new building ready for the new term, the new students and the challenges ahead. The merger of West Leeds and Wortley High Schools has been a major project and it was wonderful to see the colleagues who have worked so hard to deliver this complex piece of work and at the same time maintain a strong focus on standards and outcomes for the young people at both schools.

I was joined at the school by Cllr Richard Harker and John Battle MP who have been hugely influential and supportive as we have worked to deliver this next element of the Building Schools for the Future programme. It was John Battle's vision for schools in this part of Leeds that has shaped the work we have been doing and the students looked great in their new uniform; the now very usual shirt, tie and blazer. Everyone looked really delighted to be in the new building which provides Bernard, his colleagues and his students with a fabulous canvas on which to build a brilliant learning place over the next year.
I started the day early at the brilliant new Allerton Grange High School building...

Rick Whittaker, headteacher, and his colleagues have worked incredibly hard to get the fantastic new building ready for the new term, the new students and the challenges ahead. I was joined at the school by Cllr Richard Harker and Fabian Hamilton MP who have been hugely influential and supportive as we have worked to deliver this next element of the Building Schools for the Future programme. The students looked great in their new uniform; a different take on the usual shirt, tie and blazer. Everyone looked really delighted to be in the new building which provides Rick, his colleagues and his students with a fabulous canvas on which to build a brilliant learning place over the next year.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

I ended the day at Buttershaw Business and Enterprise College in Bradford...

I was there for a Business in the Community Leadership Network Dinner with guest speaker Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families. Buttershaw Business and Enterprise College opened it's new BSF PFI building a year ago and as you can see it's wonderful. I also met Richard Hughes, headteacher at the College and some of his brilliant students from their three 'Academies': they have a Sports Academy, a Performing Arts Academy and a University Academy catering for young people with particular talents in sport, the arts and their most academic students.

It was a great evening at a school with enormous ambition doing a great job at the heart of one of Bradford's diverse and underperforming communities. It was also encouraging to hear Ed Balls talk with real passion about the challenges we are facing, the opportunities we have and the importance of teaching, leadership, aspiration and business links.
I started the day early at Clapgate Primary School...

I started the day having breakfast with the children attending the Breakfast Club before talking to Lesley Simpson, headteacher, about the progress the school has made as well as the opportunities and challenges ahead. It was great to talk to Lesley about the learning journey the school has been on and we then walked around the school to meet Lesley's colleagues and some of her wonderful children before I finally joined the 'Wake Up and Shake Up' session with the youngest children in the hall.

It is deeply encouraging to see the transformation that has taken place at Clapgate Primary School over the last few years. Colleagues have very obviously worked hard to create a calm, purposeful and attractive learning place for the children and there is a real energy, enthusiasm and passion wherever you look which is beginning to achieve results.
I received this e-mail from my colleague Sarah Rutty, headteacher at Bankside Primary School...

"Hi Chris, Just to let you know that we have started our transformational year of aiming to be a truly brilliant 21st century school with a Bankside Best 'Bang'. The split site arrangements at Bankside and Fir Tree have begun with a wonderful start; please come and see them for yourself, you would be an honoured guest - at either site, but preferably both.
The team here - children, parents and staff - have really enjoyed our first full day at school. We would like to share with you our gratitude to all the team at Education Leeds: Derek, Janet, Charlotte, Tony and George, for their support in helping us reach this stage towards achieving our wonderful new £9M (the Greenest in the city!) school. I would also like to add a special mention for the excellent Kier Northern team that are such wonderful partners in this project; only seven weeks in but truly fantastic, 'Bankside Best' new friends! Come and see for yourself: Hi-vis jacket and hard hat will be provided!
As ever, Bankside Best Wishes, Sarah"

I am always impressed by Sarah's enthusiasm, energy and passion which shines though her messages. I am looking forward to visiting both sites to see the Bankside magic in action.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Passion, potential, performance.

This year the Education Leeds Annual Lecture, 'Passion, potential and performance' will be given by Sir Ken Robinson...

Anyone who has seen Sir Ken Robinson speak will know that he is an inspirational, provocative and unique speaker with great personal warmth and intellectual clarity along with the skills and timing of a great stand up comedian. Sir Ken is an internationally recognised leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources and this event is something no-one who cares about the radical revolution we need in learning and teaching here in Leeds can afford to miss.

I hope to see you at the Saviles Hall, Armouries Square at 6pm on Wednesday 25 November for an evening to remember. To find out more and to book your place contact

Interest-free energy efficiency loans for schools

With support from the Carbon Trust, Salix Finance is providing interest-free loans, which don't require matched funding, to public-sector bodies – including schools – to invest in energy-saving products. Visit the Salix Finance website for further information on the £15.5 million scheme, and find out more about the Carbon Trust's campaign to cut schools' carbon footprint, including a free carbon survey for qualifying schools.

The Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy

The Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy are seeking entries from primary or secondary schools...

Entering the Ashden Awards for sustainable energy offers schools the chance to win promotional and publicity opportunities, as well as a cash prize for programme expansion and engagement with experts and decision-makers in the sustainability sector.

The benefits of winning an Ashden Award include:

  • Individual prize money of up to £20,000.
  • High-profile publicity in the UK and across the globe.
  • Engagement with key decision-makers in the sector.
  • Opportunities to present your sustainable energy solutions to experts and policy-makers.
  • Tailored support to take the scheme further.
  • A broadcast-quality documentary film about the award-winning work.
The clsoing date for the UK Schools Award is 24 November 2009. To find out more visit the Ashden Awards website.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Think Team!

It is becoming increasingly obvious that things are going to get a lot more interesting around here...

We need to work harder to build brilliant. We need to:
1. share the big picture
and put aside other agendas;
2. share the reality
and always be honest with each other;
3. share everything and constantly listen to feedback;

4. share the workload and support others;
5. share every success and every failure.

This is more than just a series of goals or the Education Leeds vision - it's about our values and our culture and helping colleagues to understand where they fit into the bigger picture. We must be prepared to confront the harsh realities when things go wrong and give and receive honest feedback. We need open, clear, two-way communication and active listening to continue to build teamwork across the company and across Children's Services. If we get this right I believe that things will happen spontaneously; colleagues will understand where the pressures are, what the challenges are and how to manage the workload. They will then collaborate to get jobs done by building creative teams, dynamic partnerships and strong and meaningful relationships.

In a genuine 'one team' culture, everyone wins, loses and learns and most importantly everyone improves and develops together.


I have been reading the latest National Child Measurement Programme Dataset for Leeds...

The 2007-08 report involved NHS Leeds weighing and measuring 14,543 of our children in our reception classes and Year 6 classes last year. The key messages from the programme were:
  1. The picture remain very much the same as the year before;
  2. Rates of obesity largely match the national picture;
  3. In Year 6 obesity levels are slightly higher that the national picture;
  4. In Year 6 the number of overweight children is slightly below the national picture;
  5. In Reception around a fifth of our children are overweight or obese;
  6. In Year 6 around a third of our children are overweight or obese;
  7. There is a small but significant difference between deprived and advantaged areas of the city;
  8. Obesity affects children across socio-economic classes;
  9. Ethnicity data suggests that obesity levels are higher amongst most ethnic minority populations but care needs to be taken since the sample size is very small;
  10. More boys than girls are overweight or obese in reception;
  11. More boys than girls are obese in Year 6.

The picture reinforces the need to continue to improve school food and drink and to increase levels of activity and exercise. We must encourage children to eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables every day, to reduce their fat, sugar and salt intake and generally try to reduce the snacking culture and improve the quality of school meals and packed lunches. We need to carefully consider the Chief Medical Officer's recommendations that children should be active for 6o minutes every day and adults should be active for 30 minutes five days a week. We know that once a child moves into adulthood it is very very difficult to get out of the cycle of being overweight. So we need to look carefully at how we can ansure that every child does 60 minutes of moderate activity everyday with at least twice a week this inclding activities to improve bone health, muscle strength and flexibility.

This is a hugely important priority and we also need to ensure that most of us engage in 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week. I'd again be interested in suggestions and ideas!


Everyone seems to be talking about wicked issues, so here are mine...

Opportunities and Challenges One: Big Picture
  1. Budget issues;
  2. 21st Century Schools;
  3. OFSTED Inspections;
  4. Children's Services;
  5. National and Local Elections.

Opportunities and Challenges Two: Schools Picture

  1. Provision and School Places;
  2. Primary Standards;
  3. Primary Floor Target Schools;
  4. Secondary Standards;
  5. Secondary National Challenge;
  6. LILS/Behaviour/Attendance;
  7. Target Groups

Opportunities and Challenges Three: Education Leeds Picture

  1. Leadership;
  2. Performance Management;
  3. Resource Management.

As we enter what I believe will be one of the most interesting years we have ever experienced here in Leeds, I'd like to know what you think are the wicked issues.

I'd welcome your thoughts and suggestions.


I spent today with the Council's Corporate Leadership Team looking at some of the opportunities and challenges we face and will face over the next year...

We spent the morning looking at resources and capacity and how we focus our energy and efforts on our priorities in adult and children's services and how our business transformation programme will help drive efficiency and effectiveness. This afternoon we moved on to look at locality working and sustainability and how we might pilot some more co-ordinated approach around children, families and communities; an approach that starts with local schools, health centres and facilities for adults and the elderly. We all agreed that we also need to powerfully connect these universal front-line services with the strategic whole city and city region approaches. We need to listen more and secure greater ownership, engagement and coordination at the local level. We need to build real partnership with communities to provide and secure responsive and coherent local services that people trust and understand.

Not much to do then.

Monday, 7 September 2009

This afternoon Cllr Richard Harker and I visited our two new Academies...

We moved on to the new South Leeds Academy to welcome Ed Balls MP, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and Rosie Winterton MP, Minister for Yorkshire. Colin Bell, the Academy Principal, was generous in his praise for Education Leeds and the contribution colleagues have made to the successful opening this week. The students looked incredibly smart in their jackets and ties and all talked about how proud they were to be at the new Academy.

The Academy inherits a strong foundation to build on with this years wonderfully improved GCSE results and we are all looking forward to the school going from strength to strength supported by their sponsor, the Schools Partnership Trust.
This afternoon Cllr Richard Harker and I visited our two new Academies...

We started at the new Leeds West Academy to welcome Rosie Winterton MP, Minister for Yorkshire along with John Battle MP who has been a passionate advocate and supporter of the Academy which will be moving into it's new purpose built accommodation in two years time. Colleagues have done a wonderful job over the Summer holidays getting the new Academy ready and they have achieved a remarkable tranformation of the entrance area and the dining hall.

Annette Hall, the Academy Principal, was very generous in her praise for Education Leeds and the contribution colleagues have made to the successful opening this week. The students looked incredibly smart even if some of the boys looked somewhat uncomfortable in their jackets and ties.

The Academy inherits a really strong foundation to build on with this years wonderfully improved GCSE results and we are all looking forward to the school going from strength to strength supported by their sponsor EACT.
My colleague Viv Buckland, who heads up our work on Admissions and Transport gave me copies of the new 'Starting School in Leeds' publications this morning...

These two guides for parents and carers on the admissions process for 2010 are fantastic and colleagues have put an enormous amount of energy and effort into these publications which aim to help parents and carers through the process of obtaining the right school place for their child. The booklets are clear, helpful, understandable and contain some incredible photographs of our children and young people.

We have a great admissions and transport team who are some of the unsung heroes of Education Leeds. This is going to be another challenging admissions round, as the primary population continues to grow and parents and carers continue to search for good schools for their children. We must do everything we can to help parents and carers understand their responsibilities, choose strong local schools and ensure that we end up with as many satisfied customers as possible.